Drilling Rig Explosion Oklahoma

In this Jan. 22, 2018 file photo provided from a frame grab by Tulsa's KOTV/NewsOn6.com, fires burn at an eastern Oklahoma drilling rig near Quinton, Okla. Five people workers were killed after a fiery explosion ripped through a drilling rig, sending plumes of black smoke into the air and leaving a derrick crumpled on the ground, emergency officials said. Federal records show 10 workers have died over the past decade at well sites linked Patterson-UTI, the same driller involved in this week’s rig explosion. (Christina Goodvoice, KOTV/NewsOn6.com via AP)

Attorneys filed an amended petition in five consolidated lawsuits stemming from the January explosion that killed five men at the Patterson 219 rig in Quinton.

District 18 District Judge James Bland granted a motion on May 9 to consolidate the five lawsuits for “discovery and pretrial litigation purposes” as the cases were found to involve “identical issues and allegations” against Red Mountain Energy, LLC, Red Mountain, LLC, Patterson-UTI Drilling Co., LLC, Patterson-UTI Energy, Inc, and contractors involved with the Jan. 22 explosion at the Patterson 219 rig in Quinton.

The explosion killed five workers — Matt Smith, 29, of McAlester, Oklahoma; Josh Ray, 35, of Fort Worth, Texas; Cody Risk, 26, of Wellington, Colorado; Parker Waldridge, 60, of Crescent, Oklahoma; and Roger Cunningham, 55, of Seminole, Oklahoma.

In the plaintiffs’ first amended petition, attorneys allege negligence and breach of contract against Red Mountain and Patterson, and negligence against both National Oilwell Varco and Crescent Consulting. The lawsuit also alleges reckless conduct, negligence per se, wrongful death, survival, and strict liability for ultrahazardous activities against all defendants. Attorneys also allege gross negligence against Patterson.

Patterson-UTI has cleaned up its safety record in recent years, but OSHA issued the company 196 violations since 2007 and has investigated at least 16 workplace fatalities, including the Patterson 219 explosion, within the company since 2007 — according to a McAlester News-Capital review of the OSHA database.

Prior to the Patterson 219 explosion, OSHA last investigated a Patterson-UTI workplace fatality when an employee died Nov. 4, 2013, in Barnhart, Texas, after being crushed between a blowout preventor and the rig structure.

Patterson-UTI had two workplace deaths in 2013, two in 2012, three in 2011, two in 2010, and none in 2009, according to the OSHA database. The company had one workplace fatality apiece in 2008 and 2007, following six workplace deaths in 2006, three in 2005, and four in 2004, OSHA data shows.

In response to the original petitions, attorneys requested Patterson-UTI Energy, Patterson-UTI Drilling and Patterson Management be treated as separate entities.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs filed an amended petition arguing that Patterson-UTI Energy demonstrated its control over its subsidiary Patterson-UTI Drilling through public statements, safety policies written by Patterson Management, compensation of Patterson Energy’s leadership relying on Patterson Drilling’s profitability, Patterson Energy’s ownership of Patterson Drilling and Patterson Management, and more.

Court documents state at the time of the explosion, Red Mountain and Patterson entered into an IADC daywork drilling contract, in which “Patterson’s safety policies and procedures governed all the work being performed” at the rig.

Attorneys allege Red Mountain was responsible for the well’s design and drilling program — a plan to drill to a vertical depth of about 7,700 feet and a horizontal length of 10,286 feet — while Patterson supplied the Patterson 219 rig and rig crews.

According to court documents, on the day of the explosion, the crew drilled to “approximately 13,500 feet when it was decided to remove or pull” the entire assembly of pipe, its bottom-hole assembly and the rock bit.

Patterson removed the drill string from the well and removed the bit around 8:25 a.m. that morning, attorneys allege.

Authorities were notified around 8:45 a.m. Jan. 22 about a fire at Pryor Trust 1H-9 and a report from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission indicated the fire was caused by an uncontrolled gas release.

The OCC report states an employee attempted to close blind rams to shut off the well before the scene was secured by Emergency Management Systems personnel, and Boots and Coots well control specialists shut the well at about 4 p.m. that day.

Court documents state the five men were trapped in the doghouse — a building located atop the rig floor — during the explosion and fire. Autopsy results of the remains found on the site state they were identified via dental records and the five men died “as a result of thermal burn injuries with smoke and soot inhalation,” according to reports signed by State Medical Examiner Ross Miller.

Contact Adrian O’Hanlon III at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com

Contact Adrian O'Hanlon III by email at aohanlon@mcalesternews.com or on Twitter at @aohanlon3.

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